Originally published: January 10,2021

Goodfellows campaign raises almost $650,000

There’s no question that The World Herald’s Goodfellows charity is needed more than ever, said Shawna Forsberg, president and CEO of the United Way of the Midlands.

Her agency’s 211 helpline tells the story. It provides assistance and referrals for people who are struggling to pay for housing, utilities, food or other necessities.

“Calls are up 105% from last year,” Forsberg said. “So many people who have never had to ask for help before are asking for assistance, and Goodfellows dollars are so critical for that. With COVID, right now, the need is really huge.”

The $644,798 raised in the 2020 Goodfellows campaign, which ends today, will be used to provide relief for many of those 211 callers, she said.

Combined with about $126,000 raised in 2020 before the campaign started in November, the United Way has about $777,500 from Goodfellows to distribute to needy Omaha-area residents. That number could go up before the Goodfellows fiscal year ends on Feb. 28.

Goodfellows exists to provide one-time emergency assistance to people in crisis. The United Way partnered with The World-Herald to administer the charity on Nov. 19, right before the Nov. 23 launch of the campaign.

Forsberg is pleased with the results of the United Way’s first outing.

“We’re learning,” she said. “We are so appreciative of the partnership with The World-Herald. We felt very embraced by the community.”

A total of 1,749 donors gave this year, up from 1,670 in 2019. The largest donation was $35,000; the smallest was $5.

In addition to Nebraska and Iowa, checks came in from Virginia, Arizona, California and Florida.

The amount raised in 2020 was up slightly from the $640,885 raised in last year’s campaign.

The robust campaign followed a push by former Goodfellows Executive Director Sue Violi to raise money when the pandemic started in March.

“People were incredibly generous in March, April and May, way over the previous year,” she said, accounting for at least $45,000 of the money available for struggling area residents.

Forsberg said the United Way is working on ways to refine the administration of Goodfellows, though few changes are planned. The agency will continue to look at ways to get as much help as possible to those who need it.

“The whole intent is that we want the spirit of the Goodfellows program to be maintained,” she said. “Our team embraced it and worked hard on the community’s behalf. I’m glad we have a lot of money to give out. That’s really what this is all about.”

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